In her prose poem “Grass” in the book White Pine Mary Oliver poses a challenging question.
How many of us have weighted the years with groaning and
weeping? How many years have I done it how many nights
slept panting hating grieving, oh, merciless, pitiless remembrances!
Having posed the awkward question, Oliver goes on to describe an encounter with nature in which she experienced herself awakening to a consciousness beyond the self-recrimination and groaning with which she has begun.
the grass cares nothing
about me; it doesn’t want anything from me, it rises to its
own purpose, and sweetly, following the single holy dictum;
to be itself, to let the sky be the sky, to let a young girl be a
young girl freely – to let a middle-aged woman be, comfortably,
a middle-aged woman.
Restored by the healing presence of creation to a certain equilibrium, Oliver renounces the discordant voice that has so unsettled her and signifies her intention to live from a different place.
Those bloody sharps and flats – those endless calamities of
the person past. Bah! I disown them from the rest of my
life, in which I mean to rest.
There will always be “Those bloody sharps and flats”. Life is often discordant. It seldom runs smoothly for long. There are always parts of the symphony that sound desperately out of tune. I find myself again and again lost to the deeper rhythm and harmony of life.
Small betrayals occur at every turn in the road. I fail and I crash into others’ failures. There are pot holes in the road waiting to upset the smooth course of my journey.
How do I live, in the midst of the inevitable “endless calamities” and those unavoidable “bloody sharps and flats” while maintaining an awareness of that place in which it is possible still “to rest”?
Mary Oliver, suggests we might find this place of rest by “following the single holy dictum” of the grass whose sole purpose in life is “to be itself“.
The “calamities” of my life all offer opportunity for me to return to the reality of my true nature as a child created in the image of God. This is the place of rest.
The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews suggests that
we who have believed enter that rest (Hebrews 4:3)
The way into the land of rest lies along the path of faith. When I am able to trust that at the heart of all the chaos that seems to surround so much of life, there is a force of goodness, truth and light that nothing can destroy, my heart begins to open. I hear the deeper melody that incorporates the “bloody sharps and flats”.
Carl Perkins was an early American rock musician best known in the 1950′s and ’60′s. His life had its share of difficult times. Perkins once wrote,
If it weren’t for the rocks in its bed the stream would have no song.
The rocks in the stream are easier to embrace when I accept that the calamities I encounter are nothing unusual. They are simply the stones in the water that give the stream its song. I do not need to resist “the bloody sharps and flats”. They have their place in creating the music of my life.